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Haitian President Lays Out Terms for Deal with Opposition

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Haiti's President Jovenel Moise speaks during an interview at his home in Petion-Ville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020. Moise said Friday he wanted a new constitution to stipulate that presidential proposals would automatically pass if the National Assembly did not vote them up or down within 60 days. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — President Jovenel Moise said Friday that he is optimistic that negotiations with a coalition of his political opponents will succeed in forging a power-sharing deal to end months of deadlock that have left Haiti without a functioning government.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Moise laid out his bargaining position in the talks that began last week in the mission of the papal envoy to Haiti with political opponents and some civil society groups. He said he would accept an opposition prime minister and a shortened term in office, but only after adoption of a constitutional reform strengthening the presidency.

Moise said his efforts to improve living conditions for Haiti’s 11 million people had been thwarted during his first three years in office by the constitutional requirement that the National Assembly must approve virtually all significant presidential actions.

He said he would serve only a single term in office so he would not personally benefit from the powers of a stronger presidency.

“It makes me optimistic to see my brothers and sisters from the political opposition, civil society and religious groups,” he said. “I think we’re at a crossroads.”

Moise is a former banana farmer who won 56% of the vote against three opponents in the 2016 election. He made some progress on rural infrastructure projects during his first two years in office. Then the end of subsidized Venezuelan oil aid to Haiti fueled chaos in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation.

Without the help, the economy shrank, and investigations found questionable spending of hundreds of millions of dollars over the years in aid from the Petrocaribe program run by Venezuela. Protests began over the Petrocaribe misspending and protests snowballed until Moise’s opponents waged a near-total lockdown of Haiti’s capital for three months last fall.

Protests were accompanied by a constant blocking of Moise’s agenda in the National Assembly. A small group of opposition legislators blocked Moise proposals with tactics ranging from filibusters to throwing furniture inside the Senate chamber or calling supporters to block governing party senators access to the building.

The country was unable to organize legislative elections and the National Assembly shut down last month, leaving Moise without a constitutionally recognized government. He says the constitution allows him to rule by decree with legislative approval but he is choosing not to in order to forge national unity.

Observers say developed nations that provide Haiti with most of its state budget are highly reluctant to keep funding a government that could be accused of moving toward dictatorship.

Haiti’s 1987 constitution was drafted after the end of three decades of dictatorship and aims in part to prevent the emergence of another strongman by sharply limiting presidential powers.

“The 1987 constitution took all the power out of the president’s hands. The president has zero power and the people demand everything from the president of the republic,” Moise told AP in the foyer of his home in the hills above Port-au-Prince.

Moise said he wants a new constitution to stipulate that presidential proposals automatically pass if the National Assembly does not vote them up or down within 60 days.

He also wants all political terms to last five years. Senate terms currently range from two to six years, depending on a variety of factors, leading to constant churn and campaigning in a country where widespread insecurity and corruption make elections difficult to organize.

Convening a constitutional assembly to rewrite the charter would almost certainly take most of Moise’s remaining two years in office.

Most of the political opposition has demanded that Moise significantly cut his time in office, with some demanding his immediate resignation and others asking for him to hand over power early next year.

He said negotiations would succeed “if there’s good will on the part of the people involved to find a way forward with a realistic calendar.”

“You can’t say you’re going to carry out these reforms in two months,” he said.

A coalition of relatively moderate opponents and civil society groups were unable to reach a deal with Moise’s representatives last week at the papal nunciature. Another group of hard-line opponents did not participate.

Moise said he thinks he can reach a deal with enough opponents to move the country forward.

″’We need to all get together and forge a deal, even if that deal isn’t accepted by everyone,” he said. “You’ll have radicals, extremists who won’t sign, who won’t accept it, but that won’t kill the republic.

“I’m not hung up on finishing my term. I’m hung up on making reforms,” he said.

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Florida House Democratic Leader-Designate Fentrice Driskell Announces Leadership Team

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida House Democratic Leader-Designate Fentrice Driskell (D-Tampa) today announced the appointment of the following Democratic Representatives to serve on the House Democratic Caucus leadership team for the 2022-24 legislative term:

  • Leader Pro Tempore: Representative Dotie Joseph (D-Miami);
  • Policy Chair: Representative Kelly Skidmore (D-Boca Raton);
  • Floor Leader: Representative Michael “Mike” Gottlieb (D-Davie); and
  • Whip: Representative Christine Hunschofsky (D-Parkland).

“The House Democratic Caucus is made up of some of the strongest, most fierce champions of the people in the entire state,” said Leader-Designate Driskell. “It is an honor and great pleasure to work with these individuals in this new capacity, and all of them are prepared to lead the Caucus in the face of the challenges that lie ahead of us.”

As Leader Pro Tempore, Representative Joseph will assist the Democratic Leader in carrying out designated responsibilities and perform such Leadership responsibilities as are assigned, including stepping in for the Leader as needed.

“I have had the distinct pleasure of knowing Representative Joseph for over 20 years. From the time we were at Georgetown Law to now, she has always been a consistent champion for justice. The issues she advocates for on behalf of all Floridians makes Representative Joseph an invaluable asset in defending Floridians against extremist Republican policies,” said Leader-Designate Driskell. “I look forward to Representative Joseph’s leadership as a key member of my team over the next two years.”

In her role as the Caucus Policy Chair, Representative Skidmore will be responsible for ensuring the Caucus continues to champion legislation that positively impacts all Floridians, and will lead discussions about bills before the House at Caucus meetings.

“As the previous Policy Chair for the Caucus, I know what is needed to do this job. Appointing Representative Skidmore as Policy Chair was an easy choice,” said Leader-Designate Driskell. “She stood out as a prime member in understanding policy during the last legislative term. Representative Skidmore also brings with her a wealth of experience as both a former House and Senate staffer and House member. Applying her unique skillset to this new role will benefit the Caucus and all Floridians.”

In his role as Floor Leader, Representative Gottlieb will be responsible in interpreting the House Rules, ensuring the Caucus adheres to the agreed upon rules, and working with his Republican counterpart in advocating for fair amounts of time be allotted to the Caucus in debating different pieces of legislation.

“Two things I greatly appreciate about Representative Gottlieb are his refreshing candor and strong fortitude,” said Leader-Designate Driskell. “As the minority party in the Legislature, we’re aware of the challenges that lie ahead of us. What we need right now is someone who is unwavering under extreme pressure to help guide our Caucus during difficult moments. Representative Gottlieb is perfectly suited for this role.”

As Whip, Representative Hunschofsky will be responsible for keeping all Democratic Caucus members apprised of Caucus policy on any bills or issues before the House.

Representative Hunschofsky has an amazing ability to get things done,” said Leader-Designate Driskell. “Not only does Representative Hunschofsky possess a wealth of knowledge due to her experience as the former mayor of Parkland, Florida, she is also a champion of many initiatives close to Floridians’ hearts, such as expanding access to quality mental health care. I know Representative Hunschofsky’s knowledge and ability will help prepare our Caucus for the challenges of the next two year.”

The Florida House Democratic Caucus will convene during Organizational Session taking place Nov. 21-22, 2022 in advance of the 2023 Legislative Session scheduled to begin on March 7, 2023.

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VIDEO: State Rep. Dianne Hart elected chair of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus

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ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – State Representative Dianne Hart (D-Tampa), incoming Chair of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, talks briefly with Florida National News on the importance of the Florida Blue Florida Classic at Camping World Stadium in Orlando Saturday. The Florida Classic is an annual college football rivalry game between Bethune–Cookman University and Florida A&M University.

Hart’s Twitter Statement:

Hart’s statement: “I’m honored to have been elected as the Chair of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus.” “I’m grateful to my colleagues for their support and for trusting me to move this important caucus forward.”

During the 2021 and 2022 Legislative Sessions, Rep. Hart served on the following House committees, including Democratic Ranking Member of the Infrastructure and Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee, Judiciary Committee, Joint Committee on Public Counsel Oversight, Ways & Means Committee, Criminal Justice & Public Safety Subcommittee, State Legislative Redistricting Subcommittee and Select Subcommittee on Authorized Gaming Activity.

Hart was first elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2018. She is also the CEO of the East Tampa Business and Civic Association.

 

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Former State Rep. Bruce Antone Ready To Rejoin Florida House

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Former State Representative Bruce Antone respond to questions by CFABJ, NAACP, and the Florida Voters League panel during a candidates forum in Orange County, Thursday, October 19, 2022. (Photo by J Willie David, III / Florida National News)

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – Former Florida State Representative Bruce Antone served 12 years (six terms) in the Florida House of Representatives and defeated incumbent Democratic Rep. Travaris McCurdy during the August primary election to represent Orange County in the newly draw District 41 House seat.

CFABJ, NAACP, and Florida Voters League held a candidates forum for candidates seeking county, state and Congressional seats in Orange County, Thursday, October 19, 2022. (Photo by J Willie David, III / Florida National News)

CFABJ, NAACP, and Florida Voters League held a candidates forum for candidates seeking county, state and Congressional seats in Orange County, Thursday, October 19, 2022. (Photo by J Willie David, III / Florida National News)

Antone was among eleven candidates seeking election to county, state and Congressional seats participating in a candidate forum hosted by CFABJ, NAACP and the Florida Voters League, Wednesday, October 19, 2022.

Green Party nominee Robin Denise Harris is the only potential road block in Antone’s return to Tallahassee and faces off with him in the November general election. The District 41 House seat has an overwhelmingly Democratic voter base.

During his time in the Florida House, Antone was elected by his colleagues to serve as the Chairman of the 29-member Florida Legislative Black Caucus.

The general election is Tuesday, November 8, 2022.

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